How to save a Mountain with a Rake…
This work responds to an article by a small team of researchers in the U.S. and New Zealand who found evidence of large deposits of gold and silver in at least six reservoirs beneath several volcanoes in New Zealand. The idea of gold and silver mines desecrating maunga tapu provoked horror for Māori artist Tanya Ruka. The matriarch of her tribe, Te Rungapu Te Korako Ruka, taught Tanya Ruka that mountains are ancestors; gaining their name after tūpuna had passed away, their bodies laid to rest in a cave. In time, their bodies decayed and became dust intermingled with the earth of the mountain. Through this ancestry, Ruka connects genetically with whenua. This learning underpins Ruka’s research. A visual metaphor, Ruka’s audio visual artworks illustrate philosophically,
the struggle of humanity to protect nature against humanity itself. It asks, ‘How does an individual protect a mountain?’
While reading the book The Coming of the Maori by Te Rangi Hiroa Sir Peter Henry Buck,
originally published in 1925, Ruka became interested in the paragraphs devoted to incantations and ritual. The word karakia is variously translated as charm, spell, enchantment, witchery, magic, sorcery, exorcism, incantations and prayer. Karakia were chanted for all manner of occasions, and Ruka was particularly interested in he karakia mākutu an incantation used in sorcery.
An important part of Ruka’s method is to include karakia and tikanga, which are observed
prior to and after completion of the work, overseen by Ruka’s whaea, Mihingarangi Ruka, and often including members of the Waitaha Executive Grandmothers Council. Similarly, tohunga whakairo breathe mauri (life force) into a creation through tikanga established over hundreds of years.
In her film Landscape! Ruka creates a drawing for Taranaki Maunga, on Muriwai beach,
simply using a garden rake as a drawing or carving tool. Ruka’s son, Kahurangi, plans to carry the same design motif as tā moko. Like dedications, these manifestations create a latticework of protective imagery.
Her accompanying film, shown side by side, Taranaki represents Te Ao Wairua, and
contains footage of the Maunga in full fog. Mount Taranaki is well known for rapid, sometimes life threatening changes in weather conditions. In Ruka’s work, the mountain is characteristically veiled and protected from view, its secrets hidden for the day.
The pattern work which flows through the films is a collection of interlaced imagery collected over several years from across Aotearoa. The sound of the breath of the volcano is the rhythm of a Porotiti (a humming disc made of bone, wood or pounamu). Porotiti are part of the taonga puoro, sacred wind instruments that were used in ceremony and healing practices. Both films are looped, so that the protagonist, Ruka, is locked in a constant dizzying cycle, continually raking, both in the physical world of Landscape! and metaphysically in the layout of the exhibition, with the two works side by side.
The works together creates a strong lattice, the aim of which is to cover the length of Aotearoa, creating an enduring protective ‘enchantment’. Ruka plans to continue the work along the central plateau, Rangipō Desert and down to Kā Tiritiri o te Moana (the Southern Alps), mapping a grid from mountain to mountain.
‘Whenua <l^ndscape reclamation> | makutu #1 Mt Taranaki’ 2016 is a seeming futile effort, executed with humour and hope.
MAKUTU SERIES #1: TARANAKI
MAKUTU SERIES: LANDSCAPE!
MAKUTU: INSTALLATION @ THE ENGINE ROOM